Living the iLife: iPhoto, iMovie and Garage Band

Creativity is a natural extension of our enthusiasm.-Earl Nightingale

One of the great things about teaching young children is their ability to entertain themselves with just about anything.  Given a stick, it becomes a bat, a spear, a magic wand…their imagination has no limits.  My students role play, create, draw, paint, and pretend.  When is the last time you did any of those things?  Grown-ups don’t do those things right?  That’s for kids.  When did we lose our ability to create?

School systems are inherently driven by standardization.  Students are jumping through pre-designed hoops and creativity seems to be a side dish in the entree-heavy school system.  It seems to be overlooked that creativity can be a great intrinsic motivator. Creativity, if not nurtured, will take a nose-dive before a student leaves elementary school.

A great tool for the iPads is a suite of apps that help incorporate creativity into any content.  The iLife suite includes iPhoto, iMovie, and GarageBand.  iPhoto allows you to browse, edit, and share your favorite pictures.  iPhoto can also create slide shows and books.  iMovie allows you to turn video into movie trailers, tv news segments, and more.  With travel maps in your video travelogues, everyone who watches comes along on the adventure.  The drag and drop feature makes it easy to use.  Garage Band allows you to “get your groove on”.  You can use and edit existing music loops, or create your own using a variety of instruments.  Even if you have never played any of these instruments before, you are able to create a masterpiece.  Voice recordings are also available which you can then add to iMovie.

The iLife Suite gives students the power to create. Teachers often identify their main goals as helping children build cognitive and social skills. But the great engine that drives innovation and invention in society comes from people whose flame of creativity was kept alive in childhood.

Giving students freedom within a structure gives them a clear goal but also alternatives on how to get there.  By incorporating creative tools into the curriculum, students can explore the depths of their inner artist.

Check out the iLife Suite and see the possibilities.  Let freedom ring!

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iPads and Field Trips

The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page. -St. Augustine

Summer is a great time for travel.  Last summer, I was able to travel to Europe for the first time.  We visited the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Belgium.  It was truly the trip of a lifetime and I would love to go back!  Travel opens our minds to different cultures, experiences and people…and amazing food!  This trip allowed me to see things and experience things I would never be able to experience in my little corner of the world.  In fact, it made me wish I had paid more attention in my World History class in college.  Walking through the poppy fields of Flanders takes you straight to 1918 and World War 1.  Standing on the battle site of Waterloo puts you in the bloody final campaign of Napoleon in 1815.  I soaked up the history and beauty of these historic gems.

Our students need to experience the larger world beyond their own little corners as well. Class field trips enable educators to broaden students and enhance their educational experiences.  With iPads in the classroom we can re-think how field trips are done.

Taking iPads on a field trip would allow students to capture what they are seeing, reflect on what they are learning, and create meaningful artifacts of the experience.  The information collected on the trip could be put into an iMovie or Keynote to share with others and for assessment.  Using the information gained on the trip and transforming it into an iMovie uses the higher order thinking skills we desire for our students.  To protect the iPads, students could place them in their school book bags.  That would allow the students to be hands-free if needed, but have the iPads handy at the same time.  Having a class set of back packs just for field trips would be the ideal.  I saw one on for $19.99. It is made for tablets and is lightweight enough for younger children. Now I just need a wealthy benefactor to get them for me!

What about the trips that are too far away or are too expensive?  Because of bus costs, increased gas prices and the cost of some venues increasing, we have had to cut the number of trips we take during the year.  What if you want to visit a place that is in another country?  The iPad can take you there via virtual field trips.  On a virtual field trip, you and your students can go just about anywhere on Earth — or even into the solar system.  There are many websites that have virtual field trips already set up, such as this one to the Great Wall of China, or you can create your own.

Field trips can be great educational additions to any curriculum.  By incorporating iPads, our students have endless possibilities to explore their world and beyond!

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Mirror, Mirror, Reflecting on the School Year

I had chosen to use my work as a reflection of my values.
-Sidney Poitier

School is finally out! I have a 10 week summer stretching long before me.  Since this isn’t my first go-round with summer vacation, I know how quickly it vanishes.  I used to make a long list of things I wanted to accomplish both at home and for school.  I would find myself frustrated at the end of summer having accomplished less than half of that list.  Instead, I’ve learned to enjoy the time of no deadlines, no paperwork, no alarm clock and no schedule.  I’ve learned…to reflect.

Teaching, for me, is a calling.  It is rewarding and draining all at the same time.  By the end of the school year, I need to recharge and reconnect with me. Reflection of the year happens slowly over the summer.  At first, I just need to decompress.  I also congratulate myself on the things that went well.  We all need to do that.  Later, I begin to think of things that I could have done differently or that I want to change.  Sometimes, it is just a matter of tweaking something and other times it is more drastic.  Reflection helps us to stand back, out of the fray, and look at things a bit more objectively.

Using iPads the last year and a half has been a major source of my change.  It has definitely been a “learn-as-you-go” operation.  So much of what we have done has gone well and so it is easy to rest on that.  Test scores are up, student achievement is up and parent approval is high.  Those are all things to celebrate, especially in such a short amount of time since implementation.  Still, there is always room for improvement.

I’ve been using iBooks Author to write some leveled texts for my students.  I’ve also written a few books for content areas such as Social Studies, Science and Math.  I wrote many of those toward the end of this year and was unable to utilize them much with my class.  I want to write more books this summer and have them ready to go for student iPads in the fall.  I also want to do more personalization of the books with the students to increase their interest.  My goal is to write a short “All About” book for each student in the fall.

In addition to the iBooks Author, I want to incorporate iMovie and create short videos for students and parents.  I just purchased Roxio Toast 11 so I can burn DVD’s from iMovie.  The new MacBook Pro doesn’t have iDVD. So many skills and some good content can be incorporated when students make their own iMovie.  This also puts their engagement through the roof.

Wow…I’ve been out of school 3 days and I have quite a list.  I’m sure I will work on this and tweak it over the coming weeks.  I can’t wait to see how it will all turn out!

How does reflection work for  you?

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